Finding the voice within

Grammy-nominated singer opens new music studio in Berkley

By: Jeremy Selweski | Woodward Talk | Published June 7, 2011

 The Holistic Voice Institute’s grand opening June 4 featured performances by several of the Holistic Voice Institute’s students and staff members, including singer-songwriter Matt Casson, who teaches at the studio.

The Holistic Voice Institute’s grand opening June 4 featured performances by several of the Holistic Voice Institute’s students and staff members, including singer-songwriter Matt Casson, who teaches at the studio.

Photo by Donna Agusti

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BERKLEY — Kate Hart has one big piece of advice for aspiring singers: Stop abusing your vocal cords.

“I believe that the voice is part of the body, and a healthier, more relaxed body means a better voice for you to sing with,” she said. “It’s very similar to what an athlete would do to warm up his muscles before a competition. Singing is not about pushing — it’s about placement. Most students just don’t know to relax and breathe properly.”

Known as “the belting coach,” Hart teaches students how to get in touch with their “core voice” so that they can hit big notes without damaging their voice. At her new Berkley studio, the Holistic Voice Institute, she and her staff provide everything from voice training and instrument lessons to classes in acting, dancing and beatboxing to yoga and massages. Students of all ages are invited to hone their skills in the performing arts while improving their health at the same time.

“People who are going into music, theater or film need to have all these different disciplines down, so it made sense to offer them all under one roof,” said the 59-year-old Harsens Island resident. “I wanted to make it really diverse so that people wouldn’t have to run around to a bunch of different places to learn all these skills.”

Hart also stressed the importance of incorporating modern music along with the classics. This is why at the Holistic Voice Institute, students get a taste of not only jazz, blues and classical songs, but also rock, heavy metal, R&B and hip-hop. “We try to stay in touch with contemporary music as well as we can to keep things more fun and interesting for everyone,” she said.

A successful performer and recording artist herself, Hart is a blues singer with a lifetime of experience who has been nominated for four Grammy Awards and has won numerous Detroit Music Awards and Native American Music Awards. But she has also spent much of her time working as a voice coach, mostly in and around southeast Oakland County, and now she is committing herself to the profession full time. It was no coincidence, then, that Hart decided to open her studio in Berkley.

“I’ve been teaching in this area for a long time, so this is where most of my student base is,” she explained. “After 40 years on the road, it was time for me to stop touring and settle down, so I could try something new.”

As a teacher, Hart has trained everyone from Uncle Kracker’s backup singers to voiceover actors, lawyers, business executives, broadcasters and anyone else who uses their voice for a living. Regardless of their profession, though, she teaches her students how take good care of their voice while simultaneously strengthening their vocal range.

She is proud to have a dedicated team of fellow instructors by her side. Bryce Harding, 28, of Berkley exemplifies the Holistic Voice Institute’s commitment to modern methods of voice training. When not working as a drum teacher or playing drums in his band, Soul Divide, Harding serves as the leader of the institute’s beatboxing classes.

“Beatboxing is really a mix between being a vocalist and being an instrumentalist — it’s the best of both worlds,” he explained. “We show people how to develop their sense of rhythm and how to make the sounds of all the different drums with their mouth. But in order to do that well, they also have to know how to use their facial muscles, their tongue, their lips, and they have to have good breathing techniques.”

Harding, who in his career also goes by the name Mr. Chips, credited Hart with furthering his development as a beatboxer. The voice lessons that he took from her a few years ago at a music studio in Commerce Township not only improved his musical abilities, they also planted the seed of a burgeoning friendship between him and the singer.

“Kate is really an innovator,” Harding said. “She knows how to take a lot of different things and put them together in a totally unique way. I think this (business) will do well because there’s really nothing else like it in this area.”

Hart thinks so too, and with so many aspiring musicians and actors scattered throughout the region, she believes that there are plenty of people who could benefit from the services of the Holistic Voice Institute. But newcomers should come to the studio ready to work hard. The biggest obstacle that most students must overcome, Hart noted, is how to find their core voice and build it to its maximum potential.

“Getting someone connected to their own voice — I don’t know if there’s anything better than that,” she said. “It’s very gratifying because there’s nothing more personal for someone than their voice. It always makes me feel proud that I helped them bring something that’s inside of them out into the world.”

The Holistic Voice Institute is located at 2769 Coolidge Highway in Berkley. For more information, call (248) 460-3568 or visit www. katehart.com.

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